Adaptive and Genomic Explanations of Human Behaviour: Might Evolutionary Psychology Contribute to Behavioural Genomics?

Authors: Barendregt, Marko1; Hezewijk, Ren2

Source: Biology and Philosophy, Volume 20, Number 1, January 2005 , pp. 57-78(22)

Publisher: Springer

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Evolutionary psychology and behavioural genomics are both approaches to explain human behaviour from a genetic point of view. Nonetheless, thus far the development of these disciplines is anything but interdependent. This paper examines the question whether evolutionary psychology can contribute to behavioural genomics. Firstly, a possible inconsistency between the two approaches is reviewed, viz. that evolutionary psychology focuses on the universal human nature and disregards the genetic variation studied by behavioural genomics. Secondly, we will discuss the structure of biological explanations. Some philosophers rightly acknowledge that explanations do not involve laws which are exceptionless and universal. Instead, generalisations that are invariant suffice for successful explanation as long as two other stipulations are recognised: the domain within which the generalisation has no exceptions as well as the distribution of the mechanism described by the generalisation should both be specified. It is argued that evolutionary psychology can contribute to behavioural genomic explanations by accounting for these two specifications.

Keywords: adaptationism; behavioural genomics; evolutionary psychology; explanation; generalisation; human behaviour; invariance; universality

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Department of Theoretical Psychology, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081, BT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Email: 2: Open University of the Netherlands, P.O. Box 2960, 6401, DL, Heerlen, The Netherlands, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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